Starlink reached another subscriber milestone recently amid word of progress on a more powerful "Gen2" version of the satellite broadband platform.
Starlink, a service that relies on a large constellation of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, recently told the FCC that the service has surpassed 400,000 subscribers worldwide. That figure, which includes both residential and business customers, compares to the 250,000 subscribers Starlink claimed it had back in March 2022.
Starlink, which has plans to provide in-flight connectivity, now serves parts of 36 countries and intends to expand broadly in Asia, Africa and the Middle East sometime in 2022. SpaceX has launched roughly 2,500 Starlink satellites so far, and the company plans to launch and deploy thousands more.
Meanwhile, SpaceX is making some progress with its larger, next-gen Starlink platform. On an episode of the YouTube series "Everyday Astronaut," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the company has built at least one Gen2 Starlink satellite, which will need to enter orbit aboard SpaceX's more massive Starship rocket/launch vehicle.
Musk shed a few more details on the Gen2 Starlink satellite, noting it is seven meters long and weighs 2,755 pounds. That compares to current generation Starlink satellites that weigh about one-fifth as much and can be launched into orbit aboard SpaceX's smaller Falcon 9 rocket. The Falcon 9 has neither the volume nor the capability to get Starlink's Gen2 satellites into orbit, Musk said.
"There's a lot of people who talk about how many launches per year to orbit," Musk said. "But this is not really what matters. I think what really matters is what's the total useful payload to orbit per year."
Using an ocean ship metaphor, comparing Falcon 9 to Starship is "like comparing a dinghy to a super tanker ... they're not the same," Musk said.
The Gen2 satellites, also referred to as "Starlink 2.0," will be "almost an order of magnitude more capable" than current-gen Starlink satellites, he said.
SpaceX's proposed and preferred configuration for Starlink's Gen2 platform would support nearly 30,000 satellites at orbits as low as 340 kilometers and as high as 614 kilometers.
According to Cnet, the US Federal Aviation Administration is conducting an environmental review of the Starship rocket, and recently extended a deadline by an additional two weeks. That suggests a final report could emerge by mid June, Cnet noted.
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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading